Skip to main content

Swimming at boat launches?

News Date

On Tuesday, April 16 the New Hampshire House will hold a hearing on a bill aimed at allowing swimming at non-motorized boat launches in the state. 

As introduced, the bill would have allowed swimming at all non-motorized “car top” boat launches, which accommodate canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, etc.   

The Senate amended the bill, SB 160, to instead direct the Fish and Game Department to allow swimming at just five boat launches of their choosing. According to the amended bill text, “The purpose shall be to determine if swimming and cartop non-motorized boating can safely utilize a public boat access area while limiting the impact to grant funding.” 

Arguments for public access 

The topic of swimming at boat launches gained public attention when the TV show Northwoods Law included a disagreement between a conservation officer and a member of the public over swimming from the non-motorized boat launch at Connor Pond in Ossipee.  According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, swimming is not allowed at any public boat launches. 

Resident Jessica Williams inspired Rep. Ed Comeau and Sen. Jeb Bradley to sponsor bills that would change that.   

I’m upset about it because the public, Jessica and her family, have every bit of right as anybody else to use that water in Connor Pond. The public owns it. I’m a huge believer in access for the public,” said Bradley 

Safety, funding concerns 

The Fish and Game Department has several concerns about swimming at boat launches.  First, they are concerned about the safety of swimmers in boating areas.   

Increased traffic and safety concerns at boat launches would also require more staffing from an already underfunded department. 

Lastly, the department believes it could lose $420,000 in annual grant funding if it allows swimming at boat launches.  That federal grant funding is earmarked specifically for expanding recreational boat access.  The department believes they would lose that funding if boat launches turn into swimming areas. 


Login or register to post comments


What about fishing at boat ramps . Its already a thing . Covered by my fishing license . Boat ramps often are a great fishing spot . So if you openly allow swimming then you are denying fishermen the right to fish .

Rep Tom Ploszaj

Yes allow swimming. The BS between NH Depts. continues and the public suffers all about money this time? NH is a donner state accept it or have the General Court petition give notice to the Feds NH is exercising it's right as a sovereignty state. At the non-motorized launches, place a sign notifying the public they can use the site at their own risk and remove the mention of swimming from the signs about what's not allowed such as no pets or open fires. Then swimming would not be an issue about what the money is used for.


With all the important issues pressing in NH, this doesn't raise an eyebrow for me.

Thank you to our sponsors and donors